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On every level, the Iraq war is hurting America

Bush's folly in Iraq is taxing US armed forces, the economy, and democracy.

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The conventional wisdom says that President Bush's recent campaigning has brought on a tilt toward Republican congressional candidates in fall elections. But all the other indicators point the other way.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate of the war on terror reports that "anti-US sentiment ... is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies." One reason is the lack of success in stabilizing and pacifying Iraq. The implication is that the US is losing the war in Iraq.

In one sense, the Army is plainly losing the war. It is shorter of manpower and equipment now than when it invaded Iraq in 2003. The 3rd Infantry Division, which led the invasion of Baghdad and which has already served two tours in Iraq, has been alerted to prepare for a third tour. (It has also been told to prepare to go to the Korean peninsula if another conflict breaks out there.) But there is no equipment with which to train. What was not destroyed or worn out in Iraq was left there for the replacements.

Besides the equipment shortage, the division's 2nd Brigade has only about half of the roughly 3,500 soldiers it is supposed to have. Fort Stewart, Ga., where the 3rd Infantry Division is based, has been receiving about 1,000 soldiers a month, of whom 400 are just out of basic training. This is the result of an intensified recruiting drive, but it will be a year, perhaps longer, before they are combat ready.

The Bush administration wanted to fight the war on the cheap. It did not want to ask the public for sacrifices, such as paying higher taxes. On the contrary, it fought in Congress to keep taxes low, thereby making the richest 1 percent of the population even richer. There was no talk of rationing. And there was certainly no talk of a draft to provide more manpower for the Army.

Mr. Bush has said that if the generals in charge in Iraq ask him for more troops, he will provide them. But authorizing more troops is different from having them on the ground well trained and well equipped.


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